Relationships can be confusing.  So much is being said in so many ways: between the lines, meta message, spoken/unspoken/inferred, and physically. Plus we’re letting someone into our sacrosanct space where we are vulnerable which makes everything mean more, carry more weight, be freighted with meaning.  We are combining our entire world including all that goes on inside us every day with their entire world and everything going on inside of them.  It makes sense that we want to create habits and get into a rhythm because that makes it all doable and healthy vs chaotic and overwhelming.  But everything I just said somewhat presupposes that both parties are equal, are able and willing to fully participate, and are honestly wanting a healthy relationship.  That’s a lot of supposing.  So let’s suppose something else, like say, that this isn’t the case.

There are people who enter into relationships without being prepared for them.  I like the way Dan Savage has talked about it, that if you’re a lemon, don’t sell yourself as a usable car.  Keep yourself off the market, give yourself space, get into a driveable condition before putting yourself out there.  It’s not fair to them or yourself to misrepresent what you want and what you’re capable of.  There are also people who go into a relationship thinking they want this out of it and want to live like that and then find out through the process that it just isn’t so.  This is still true of quite a number of people who are trying to be normative in their communities whether its concerning sexuality, marriage practices, religion or culture, people can enter into a relationship meaning well, thinking this is right for the right reasons and find out that its wrong for all the right reasons or wrong for the wrong reasons.  And then of course, there are those who enter into a relationship because they want something.  They want to have their cake and eat it too, they want the benefits while putting out minimal effort, they want some part of a relationship, but not all the rest, they want the title and to look good to others, but the actual relating part is not something they are interested in, etc.

All of which adds layers and layers of confusion and weird communication to a relationship.  So what’s to be done?  Well, most people focus on the words and trying to do more communicating and usually this fails and just gives more examples of what is confusing or adds even more confusion.  When things in a relationship are confusing, it’s handy to take a step back, get out a box and put all the words in it (yes they can be labeled and filed, cross referenced and footnoted, just get them in the dang box), and then look at the actions all on their own.  Actions often, not always, but often will show us the truth of the situation. They will point out that all the love words aren’t proved by loving actions.  They will point to disconnection where there should be connection.  They point to disapproval and distance rather than actual relating.  Once you see the actions clearly then comparing them to the words can start clarifying what the words are actually saying.  Getting clarity can not only help you clear up the confusion in communication, but it can help you see whether what you have is actually a relationship or a bad bargain.

I think Stephen Colbert describes rather nicely what the baseline is for a relationship starting at 7:30.